SAN DIEGO (KGTV) - As part of their mission to make sure no one in San Diego goes hungry, Feeding San Diego relies on a web of partners to rescue food, keeping it out of the landfill, and getting it to families in need.
"It might look imperfect, but it's still perfectly good to eat," says Kate Garrett, the food rescue manager at Feeding San Diego. "It might just be a product that's nearing its expiration date, or produce that might have a little bit of character, like some blemishes."
The food rescue program accounts for 70% of the food distributed at Feeding San Diego. Most of it comes from a network of more than 400 grocery stores and restaurants across San Diego, as well as 225 farms and packing sheds throughout the state.
Instead of throwing excess food away, the locations in the food rescue network donate it to Feeding San Diego.
"It's our job as a good corporate citizen," says Vanessa Rosales, the Corporate Affairs Director at Food 4 Less. Last year, her stores donated 54,000 pounds of food in San Diego.
"To do a little part to help others in need, that's what's in it for us," Rosales adds. "We care about the communities that we work and live in."
In addition to Food 4 Less, other stores that donate to the Food Rescue Program include Big Lots!, Aldi, Costco Wholesale, Sprouts Farmers Market, Gelson's, Target, Starbucks, Trader Joe's, and Amazon.
"It's anyone that might have excess food, which would have otherwise gone to the landfill," says Garrett. "We're able to divert that."
Keeping that food out of the landfill also helps the environment.
In FY21, Feeding San Diego rescued 27,282,775 pounds of food. Keeping it out of the landfill saved 24,282 metric tons of CO2 equivalent from being emitted into the atmosphere.
Keeping track of millions of pounds of donated food creates a logistical challenge. That's why Feeding San Diego invented MealConnect in 2016. The technology platform helps Feeding San Diego coordinate pickups to ensure food is delivered and distributed while still fresh. It also tracks the number of pounds donated.
Since its inception in 2016, MealConnect has helped recover 2 billion pounds of food nationwide. Around 32,000 stores use it across the US.
The food rescue program should get bigger in 2022. That's when a new state-wide law goes into effect that requires stores and restaurants to donate any useable food they have leftover at the end of the day.
Garrett says Feeding San Diego is ready and excited to handle the increase in donations.
"We know there's enough food in San Diego to feed each and every senior, child, family member, and individual," says Garrett. "But it's a distribution problem."
Food rescue helps solve that problem.
If you'd like to help solve hunger in San Diego, please donate to the Month of a Million Meals campaign by clicking here.